Someone asked me what was the best gift I ever received. I’ve been stumbling over my response to this question ever since.
I didn’t want to answer by saying something obvious, like a happy marriage (which I never take for granted) or something tangible like a beautiful piece of jewelry.
Then it hit me. Of course. It was right in front of me all the time.
The best gift I ever received might sound strange to you, but its the lessons I learned about myself, and from those around me, after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Being diagnosed with an incurable chronic illness is not only about the patient. It’s also about those who love and care about you. The courage and love shown by family and friends while the sting of the diagnosis is fresh and raw is a true lesson.
And a gift.
My family showed courage the day of my diagnosis. My mother had the unenviable task of telling me about my diagnosis, something no mother should ever have to do. My brothers hugged me, and my father quietly kissed my forehead while gently stroking my hair.
My boyfriend held me close, and whispered he was with me for the long haul.
My three best friends cried and laughed with me as we listened to each other’s words of wisdom.
This is how my journey began.
Over the years I’ve had friends drop off the radar. Because of their ignorance and inability to understand illness, I’ve been hurt, questioned and misunderstood. This served to strengthen me, and was the catalyst in my need to educate and spread awareness about MS and that, despite having a disability, my abilities are what define me.
The gifts I received of love and understanding are the ones I’ve tried to pass on.
When my son was born we decided to always be truthful with him, even about my illness. Mommy can’t run, Mommy gets tired, Mommy has good days and bad. We also wanted him to learn the importance of a positive attitude, tolerance and being compassionate.
When my MS Center was celebrating their 10th anniversary my son was 3 years old. A popular local newscaster was attending their celebratory event, and my son and I were going as well. While the newscaster was speaking, I noticed my sweet little boy climbing up into the lap of one of our dear friends who was severely disabled and required a wheelchair.
I smiled when I noticed the joy on the man’s face. That tiny act from our big-hearted, innocent child stayed with me all these years later. I knew in my heart that we had, indeed, instilled in our son the best gifts I ever received: love, compassion and an understanding heart.
My “best gift” was being passed down from one generation to the next.